Solar energy, whether from photovoltaic panels, solar thermal systems, or concentration of sunlight to heat water and create steam to operate an electricity producing turbine, is being promoted by many as the most promising energy source of the future. While widespread use of solar energy does appear promising as an energy supplier, there are downsides to solar energy that people should be aware of.
Large solar projects are costly and take up land area space
For one thing, there is the cost factor. The cost of a two-kilowatt (kW) solar energy system is approximately $45,000, which may not be enough to supply enough energy for even an average home. Solar energy is also less efficient (about 20 -30%) , and depends on how much sunlight is available, and when (only during daytime hours, on a non-cloudy day).
In addition, some materials used to make photovoltaic solar panels include hazardous substances such as selenium and cadmium.
Last of all, there are the aesthetic aspects. Large solar array plants such as those being planned for Israel’s arid Negev region take up a considerable amount of land area. Even solar panels on home rooftops may take up a great deal of rooftop area; and as such, may not blend well with other houses in a neighborhood.
Taking into consideration that solar energy can only be created during daylight hours, when the sun is shining, storing this energy is a big problem and can make a solar system even more expensive. And selling excess solar created electricity to local electricity power stations is not always worthwhile, as feed-in tariff agreements with the power company are not always in favor of the one who possesses the solar energy system.
Sun boilers are not very aesthetic either
On the brighter side of solar energy, as the technology that goes into these systems improves, the costs and efficiency of solar energy systems will undoubtedly decrease.
When considering the merits of solar energy there are some positive attributes that make using this natural energy source worthwhile; despite higher costs, aesthetic drawbacks and other issues. For one thing, the “energy source”, i.e. the sun, is the planet’s most important and is available to virtually everyone for free. This sun is not only responsible for keeping us warm and growing the very food we need to live on, it is also a source of nutrients to our bodies.
Even if not used to generate electricity, the sun’s natural energy is vital for the survival of life on earth itself. All the energy sources now utilized to create the power we need came originally from the sun; including fossil fuels (the remains of organic plant matter), thermal energy – the earth’s hot mantle and outer core were probably created originally by the sun. Even wind energy is the result of the earth’s air and wind currents that are influenced by the sun.
Despite some drawbacks, the use of solar energy will undoubetedly not only increase but will become more widespread; especially in countries where ample sunlight is available.
Photo: Energy Tribune
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